Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that is surprisingly difficult to review, you sit back having just finished playing it and despite any faults you know the game has, all you can think about is how awesome the game was, how beautiful the environments were and how heart shattering the ending was.
(SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS? DIDN'T YOU GET THE MESSAGE? SPOILER ALERT!)
Graphics and Presentation
You are Wander and you've come to the forbidden lands to try to find a way to restore the soul of your beloved. To that end you make a deal with the shadowy being known as Dormin to slay sixteen colossi that roam the lands and in return he will restore your beloved's life. Once you step out into the lands, you realise the scale of the task ahead of you, something the game does very well to reinforce regularly.
Shadow of the Colossus is all about scale, from the size of the bridge you cross to enter the forbidden lands where you spend the entire game to the height of the shrine that serves as your home-base, to the size of these empty lands, to the size of the freaking Colossi you will face here. Perhaps that emptiness is the biggest example of scale in this game, the forbidden lands are huge and the only thing in them are you, the Colossi you must face, your horse Agro and a lot of lizards... like a lot of Lizards. They are also quite beautiful, this game looks gorgeous even more so in this HD collection, the colours are vibrant, the detail on the colossi is amazing and the various ruins dotted about are exquisite.
The art style in this game is really unique and something you really have to see for yourself. Keep in mind though this is a HD port of a game that originally came out on the PS2 in 2005 so the graphics do look a bit aged, but in a good way and things can be a bit jaggy. Also the camera can be extremely annoying at times and whilst you can lock onto the Colossi your fighting you do have to hold L1 down to do so. The game is very cinematic in the way it presents and does things so whilst the spectacle is very impressive it can also make gameplay sometimes painfully frustrating.
This game also has 3D support but as I do not have a 3D Tv, I can't comment on how good or necessary it is.
Gameplay is fairly unique and that most of the time is a good thing. You have two weapons, a magic sword which doubles as a Colossi Radar and a bow with an unlimited supply of arrows. You also have a grip meter which is very important since you will be climbing a lot of old ruins and a lot of Colossi looking for their weak spots, glowing symbols that when stabbed with your handy magic sword do a lot of damage to the Colossi. Because your grip can run out fairly quickly early on, you have to be fairly tactful, learning the patterns of the Colossi's actions and knowing when you don't need to cling for your life and can actually refill the meter. If you can do so than you may never need to climb any colossi more than once, though you can increase your grip by finding and killing white-tailed lizards, NOT the common black tailed ones and eating their tales and increase your health by finding and eating from fruit trees.
Basic formula, find a Colossi with your radar sword, work out the Colossi's pattern and gimmick, climb said Colossi and stab the weak spot or spots. It is fairly exhilarating and to be fair a lot of fun, especially with an amazing soundtrack involved, but it can also be a little irritating. For starters Agro (the horse) controls very badly a lot of the time, don't get me wrong its probably more realistic to what a horse actually controls like it is just painfully frustrating especially in tight areas or when trying to chase a colossi since bumping into anything even a thin tree and Agro grinds to a halt. Secondly the bow is likewise fairly inaccurate and clunky and trying to fire arrows on Agro something you have to do for a few Colossi is more difficult than it should be.
Despite that few games have Boss fights anywhere near as challenging or fun as this game and the Colossi are truly magnificent to see and when you do beat one of the sixteen Colossi you feel a real sense of accomplishment.
The musical score in this game was composed by Kō Ōtani and it quite possibly has some of the best music I've heard in a while, pretty much every track that played I wanted to own and hear again and again. The music in this game is stunningly good, at times you may even find yourself stopping what your doing just to listen to the music. Should the soundtrack ever be released here, I will definitely be picking it up.
The dub on the other hand is a bit unusual, Shadow of the Colossus utilizes an entirely fictional language which everyone speaks, with English subtitles so you can understand what their saying. It actually adds a bit more mystery and intrigue to the game and fits in very well, the voice actors whilst I can't understand are all very pleasant to listen to and all put the right amount of emotion into their speech to really fit the role.
I have not encountered any glitches whilst playing this game which given the size of the forbidden lands and the fact there is very few loading times at all, usually only occurring when you defeat a colossus and are returned to the shrine, is quite impressive.
Replay Value AKA Enjoyment
This game has a lot of replay value as well as some of the hardest trophies I've seen, first of all you can actually replay any Colossi fight in a nice little mode called Reminiscence mode by praying at their stone corpse. Complete with a grainy filter this mode is fun if you want to go back and do a fight again at any point, though perhaps it would just be easier to just complete the game and than make use of the time attack mode in New Game +. In fact you will probably need to use the New game + feature a few times as one playthrough can take up to 9-10 hours or more and even with collecting all the fruit from fruit trees and tails from white tailed lizards you won't be able to max out your health and stamina and get the gold trophies for doing each one respectively, so a few playthroughs will be necessary..
There is also a hard mode and a hard time attack unlocked after completing the game on normal and when they say hard they do mean it, because I struggled to even do the first few Colossi though I intend to go back later and try again. After all a game this good certainly deserves the time and effort required to platinum it.
(SPOILERS END HERE! SPOILERS END HERE! YOU ACTUALLY MADE IT TO THE END!? CONGRATS!!! SPOILERS END HERE!)
Shadow of the Colossus is one of those games that you just have to experience, forget the at times annoying camera, or difficult horse controls, just experience the game and you won't regret it. At the time of this review the game can be purchased on its own on the PSN store or as part of the TeamIco HD collection and either way you need to own this game and you need to play it. Shadow of the Colossus is a true gem of the PS2 generation and should be remembered for all of time.